One Shark, No Swim by Lehua Parker

one shark no swim

There’s something bugging adopted Zader Westin, something more troubling than his water allergies where one drop on his skin burns like hot lava. It’s bigger than his new obsession with knives, designing the new murals for the pavilion with Mr. Halpert, or dealing with Char Siu’s Lauele Girlz scotch tape makeover. Zader can’t stop thinking about a dream, the dream that might not have been a dream where Lē‘ia called him brother then jumped into the ocean and turned into a shark.

Zader’s got a lot of questions, not the least being why he’s hungry all the time, restless at night, and why he feels a constant itch on the back of his neck. It’s making him feel like teri chicken on a pūpū platter, but Zader doesn’t want to think about chicken, not with his growing compulsion to slip it down his throat—raw.

With Jay busy at surf camp and Uncle Kahana pretending nothing’s happening, Zader’s left alone to figure things out, including why someone—something—is stalking him before it’s too late.

Summer in Lauele Town, Hawaii just got a little more interesting.

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 Amie:  Aloha, Aunty Lehua! Thanks for joining us on MUF! One Shark, No Swim sounds very exciting! Tell us a little bit about why you chose to write middle grade fiction.

Lehua:  Until the Niuhi Shark Saga, all of my professional writing had been for adults. But one snowy Utah winter day, daydreaming at my computer, this trio of rascally kids starting talking to me and wouldn’t go away. They kept telling me about adventures they were having flying kites, mud sliding, surfing, learning karate—things that I did as a kid growing up in Hawaii. Bits and pieces of a story that I’d had floating around my head since I was seven years old began to come together. I found myself thinking about books I read as a middle grader and how I would’ve loved reading books that showcased the real Hawaii, not the Hollywood vacation version that most people think they know. Middle grade is a turbulent, amazing, life-changing time where young people begin to question things they used to take for granted—everything from bedtime is 9 o’clock to whether or not they really hate broccoli or like playing soccer. It made sense to begin Zader’s story as an 11 year old sixth grader on a quest to understand why he’s different.

Amie: That makes perfect sense – and I think many of our readers can relate to the turbulence of the middle-grade years. Tell us about Zader.  Would you say he’s your favorite character to write? 

Lehua:  Alexander Kaonakai Westin—Zader—was discovered as a newborn abandoned on a Hawaiian reef by old Uncle Kahana and ‘Ilima, a poi dog. He was adopted by the Westin family and has an almost twin brother Jay and an older sister Lili. His life is pretty typical of island kids. But Zader has a weird condition—he’s allergic to water. He also has an imaginary friend called Dream Girl and a bully’s target on his back. In One Boy, No Water, Zader learns that he can’t hide from his problems; like swimming with big ocean waves he has to run to them instead of away. He also discovers a secret he can’t quite believe. In One Shark, No Swim, Zader begins to question everything he’s been told about himself—including his water allergy.

While Zader is the heart of the series, I also enjoy writing about ‘Ilima, the dog who isn’t really a dog. She doesn’t talk, so I have to keep coming up with different ways for her to tell people what she’s thinking and feeling while still pretending to be a dog. She’s sassy, bossy, and a bit of a diva. I like that she’s a 100% in Zader’s corner and isn’t shy about telling Uncle Kahana when she doesn’t agree with what he thinks is best.


11 year old Alexander Kaonakai Westin—Zader for short—is allergic to water. One drop on his skin sears like white-hot lava. Too bad a lifetime of carrying an umbrella and staying away from the beach isn’t the answer, especially when his popular almost twin brother Jay looks destined to become the next Hawaiian surfing sensation.
But avoiding water is just the tip of Zader’s troubles. Eating raw seafood and rare meat gives him strange dreams about a young girl in a red cape and nightmares about a man with too many teeth. There’s also the school bullies who want to make Zader their personal punching bag, the pressure of getting into Ridgemont Academy, and the mysterious yearly presents from his birth family that nobody talks about.
It’s enough to drive Zader crazy, especially when he suspects old Uncle Kahana and ‘Ilima know a secret that explains his unusual biological quirks. After all, they were the ones who found him newborn and abandoned on a reef and brought him to the Westins to adopt. Uncle Kahana swears Zader is ‘ohana—family—by blood as well as adoption. Too bad he’s not saying more.
When Jay quits surfing after a shark scare, Zader decides it’s time to stop hiding in the shadows and start searching for answers.
Growing up adopted in Hawai‘i just got a little weirder.

Amie: I love animal companions in novels. I especially love the creative ways authors find to express the thoughts, feelings and emotions of those animals! One Shark, No Swim is the sequel to One Boy, No Water. Would you mind tell us how publishing your second book was different than your first?

Lehua: When I wrote One Boy, No Water I had the luxury of simply sitting down and writing it. As it was going through the publication process with Jolly Fish Press, I began to build a social media platform as a middle grade author. Blogging, reviewing other books, tweeting, designing and programming two websites plus maintaining them, networking on Facebook—you name it— it all took a significant chunk out of my writing and reading time. I still find it hard to market and create new work, but I’m getting better at it.

Once I realized I needed to focus on getting One Shark, No Swim written, it was really just a matter of logging off all the social media distractions and doing it. In my head, the Niuhi Shark Saga is one long story told in a series of middle grade chunks. It’s fun to consider where the characters are, how they changed, and where they are ultimately going. Although I promised myself I wouldn’t be in the same situation for book 3, tentatively titled One Fight, No Fist and scheduled for publication in Fall 2014, I have to admit the looming editorial deadline is making me fidget.

Amie:  Eek! I know that fidgety feeling all too well!  One last question….if you had to choose between eating raw fish the rest of your life or jelly donuts, which would you choose? 

Lehua: Man, this is a tough question for all the wrong reasons! If the jelly donuts were gluten-free, then definitely the donuts! I’m allergic to wheat. Just a little bit makes my joints swell with what feels like arthritis. My family knows when I’ve eaten something with wheat in it because I start limping around a couple hours later. While I love baked goods in all their yummy glory, the pain’s not worth even a bite of the most amazing wheat-filled jelly donut in the world.

Which brings us back to raw fish. Sashimi, the Japanese/Hawaiian Pidgin word for thinly sliced raw fish, is pretty good when it’s dipped in a spicy sauce. So’s poke, another island raw fish staple at parties. For me the problem isn’t the fish, it’s the sauce that goes with it. Soy sauce, what islanders call shoyu, is made with wheat and is served like ketchup on fries. There is a gluten-free version of shoyu, but it’s not common.

So I guess that leaves me eating raw fish in a grape jelly sauce. Eeew!

Amie: Haha! That doesn’t sound so great. Good luck with that one 😉


Lehua Parker is originally from Hawaii and a graduate of The Kamehameha Schools and Brigham Young University. In addition to writing award-winning short fiction, poetry, and plays, she is the author of the Pacific literature MG/YA series the Niuhi Shark Saga published by Jolly Fish Press. One Boy, No Water and One Shark, No Swim are available now. Book 3, One Fight, No Fist will be published in 2014.

So far Lehua has been a live television director, a school teacher, a courseware manager, an instructional designer, a sports coach, a theater critic, a SCUBA instructor, a playwright, a web designer, a book editor, a mother, and a wife. She currently lives in Utah with her husband, two children, three cats, two dogs, six horses, and assorted chickens. During the snowy Utah winters she dreams about the beach.  Find Lehua at her blog, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and Pinterest. Visit the Niuhi Shark Saga here.

Would you like to win a copy of One Shark, No Swim? How about a copy of One Shark, No Swim AND a copy of One Boy, No Water??!! Well then, fill out the Rafflecopter form below!

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Amie Borst writes twisted fairy tales with her middle-grade daughter, Bethanie. Their first book, Cinderskella, releases later this month on October 26th! You can find them on facebook.

  1. This series looks great! I would love a copy for my classroom.

  2. Looks great and I love Hawaii. Not many chapter book set in Hawaii!

  3. So glad you did this interview! The Niuhi Shark Saga is an exciting and original story, and the portrayal of local culture is spot-on.

  4. These books sound amazing! I know my kids would love them. What a cool concept and setting. And thanks for the reminder that in order to write, I need to log off social media. 🙂 (How I read about this contest, BTW!)

  5. This sounds great. The kids will love that it is different from everything else out there.

  6. After reading one boy no water I am looking forward to reading the next book.

  7. These sound like wonderful books–I look forward to reading them. Thanks for sharing this interview.

  8. Sounds amazing! I’m entering!! My son would love too! Well done on another fantastic interview, Amie!

  9. These sound like books my boys would love! Thanks for the chance to win.